Two seniors and two Catholic clergymen shared their religious experiences on an Ash Wednesday panel marking the start of Lent. The two students (myself and Justin Dickerson) and clergymen (Br. Maximilian Buonocore, O.S.B. and Bishop Yousef Habash of the Syriac Catholic Eparchy) joined religion teacher Stephen Adubato asked the guests to talk about how their religions and experiences in life have shaped them. Their responses came from a deeply personal part of each speaker and the passion of the Bishop in particular stood out. The Bishop, a native of Mosul, Iraq, talked about all the struggles that he had gone through in his own life and the sacrifices that he had to make. His tone became urgent as he spoke of the death that constantly surrounded him and the faith that helped him endure.
The panel and the day of reflection as a whole was meant to be a lesson to the students – a lesson that informs the students of the pain that people in the Middle East experience and a lesson in humility.
“Ash Wednesday is the day that we’re reminded that human life is empty or like dust without faith in God’s love,” Mr. Adubato said, “Those living in the Middle East right now are living in dark times where it can easily seem like there’s no meaning or hope.” The area of Mosul where the Bishop was from was taken over by ISIS in 2014 and the surrounding Christian and Muslim communities faced persecution as a result. Even through the troubles, though, these communities persevered.
According to Mr. Adubato, “Many of these communities have found hope through their faith.” Similarly, our community, as a community of faith, is a sign of hope or light in a world filled with darkness and violence. The peace in our religiously diverse community serves as a sign to the rest of the world that coexisting is not impossible. Along with peace, another message sent to the students through the day of reflection was that of humility. The students should recognize how lucky they are and not take their privileges for granted.
Fr. Ed said on the day of reflection “People on the other side of the world are killing each other over what makes us a community.” We should reflect this Lent on what Fr. Ed said and not only embrace what makes us special, but also continue to spread the light of community and faith.